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Managing data just got easier

Geotechnical software developer Key Systems has just launched the latest version of its site investigation data management package Holebase and new laboratory management software Keylab.

Version 3 of Holebase, geotechnical software developer Key Systems' site investigation data management package, was launched last month after more than two years of development.

The new version is partly in response to the new version of the Association of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Specialists (AGS) data, the UK standardised data transfer format.

But it is not simply an update of Holebase 2, explains Key Systems technical director Roger Chandler.'We could have upgraded Holebase 2 to be compatible with the AGS 3 but because of other requests for improvements from users, we started from scratch.'

Users are always involved with software development and usually drive the process, he says. If a company requests a new function or improvement to an existing aspect of a package, Key Systems canvasses other users before deciding to go ahead with development.'We then ask users to test the new version before releasing it.

'The new program is much more graphically based, ' he explains. Holebase 3 works in a mapping background and the user is able to import site plans or even Ordnance Survey (OS) maps to view site investigation projects on.

Key Systems now has a licence to use digital OS maps, which Chandler says have become easier to obtain in digital format following a change in OS policy.

This is just one of the more obvious ways in which the program has become more user friendly he says. 'It is a much more friendly environment and users don't have to know AGS jargon to use it.'

The improved graphical environment means the user simply clicks on a borehole or trial pit (or any other sample point) on the site plan to bring up a window showing the borehole log, sample descriptions, installation details, insitu and laboratory test data and even photographs of trial pits or core samples for example.Data can be viewed, edited and updated on screen.

Chandler says one of the criticisms of Holebase 2 was that it did not support all the functions that engineers wanted, mainly because it was restricted by data covered in the previous version of AGS data. Because AGS 3 now allows user-defined datasets such as tunnel deflections and building movements to be included, this is reflected in the improved functionality of Holebase 3. 'You can have any data you like, 'he says, 'and Holebase will create a table for it.'

The software includes a 'data collection wizard'which is very similar to the wizard programs featured in Microsoft Office. In fact, Holebase's wizard works in the Excel spreadsheet package, allowing engineers to look at any aspect of the site investigation in a familiar environment. 'This means engineers do not have to learn the entire new Holebase package, 'says Chandler. It also means that individual computers do not have to have the full package loaded on to them; engineers just need to be able to access it from the company network.

For example, if an engineer wants to look at every SPT result in certain geological strata, they simply ask the wizard to go and look for it.The program searches the project database and pulls out the requested data, which can be filtered, and compiles it into a table on Excel, ready for manipulation and graph plotting in the usual way.

Holebase's project manager function tracks all the projects in the system, monitoring any changes to data, allowing close control of contracts. Access can be restricted so that only some users are able to edit or change data.

Another new feature is the ability to create geological sections. Although this was possible on previous versions, AGS data had to be exported into Autocad. Now Holebase can carry out the operation itself.

'The new section module is Jack and Jill simple, ' Chandler asserts. Users simply define the section they want by drawing a line across the site, through boreholes, trial pits or have sample points projected onto the section if it follows a proposed road alignment for example.

Three-dimensional ground models can also be produced, with Holebase 3 able to export data in 'xyz' format to Autocad.While numerical results such as contamination concentration can be plotted with some certainty, Chandler says other data, such as stratum depth, has to be treated with some caution as there is some interpretation between boreholes.

All data is ready to be printed out for reports, and users can customise the output, such as borehole logs, to their own house style using the Form designer.

Importing AGS data from previous contracts is also simple and fast.The whole process takes only a few minutes, before a map appears on screen with the site investigation sample points plotted on it.

The Beta version of Holebase 3 has been out in industry for some time and Chandler says the response has been 'very positive''What we have tried to do, and judging from feedback what we have achieved, is to create a data storage system that is useful to users, ' he says.

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